The birth of a Painting

AlexisMahrus_Lament&Release

Most of my work in the past decade has been created for a job- whether it illustration, design or a mural.  But in 2009, I began a series of paintings that were born our of my own (very private) experiences.  Still, I’d like to share the story with you because in this case, there is a happy ending. Early that year, I had a miscarriage.  I was surprised to find out how common they are and spoke with many women who shared their stories.   It was quite a painful experience, physically and mentally.  Even though I had loved ones around me, I felt quite alone.  In fact, I felt I had to be alone.

During this time, someone made a suggestion to make a painting, perhaps as a release.  In the past year,  I had been making scribbles in my sketchbook and noodling with some ideas about how to use the language I had developed while painting murals.  One day,  against my mind’s naysayer, I decided to give it a shot.

FigureheadI knew that I wanted to paint a 3d object.  I did some research into sculpture and different media and happened upon the wood sculptures created for the front of ships during the 16th to 19th century, known as a “Figurehead”. They were used as “symbols to protect the ship, and to express the sailors’ belief that the ship was a living thing. There was also the belief that a ship needed to find its own way, and could only do this if it had eyes.” “Female figureheads were popular, usually baring one or both breasts. This represented the superstitions of the seamen. Women on board ship were thought to be unlucky, but a naked woman was supposed to be able to calm a storm at sea.” (www.royalnavalmuseum.org)

 

This seemed like the perfect inspiration for my pieces.  I loved the idea of creating a contemporary version of something new.  I did some more sketching and decided to use the wood as a metaphor for me to convey my story.  A few months later, I had finished my painting, “Lament”.  To read about the process of this painting, go here.

As soon as I finished the first piece, it was clear to me that I had to create its pair — a bookend, so to speak.  I wanted to convey the full story — the loss, in addition to the aftermath.  I called the second piece, “Release”.  The experience of the miscarriage made me conscious that the human body is an amazing machine.  I remember feeling as if I had to let go, and let my body take over.  It made the decision and now it had to do the work.

These painting were incredibly important to me — they helped me rebuild and move forward.  Additionally, I was incredibly inspired to continue painting in this vein, and tell more stories.  Since then, I’ve started another sub-group and have sketches and ideas for dozens more.  Stay tuned for more postings on my special side project.

 


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